Of the four teams left in the NCAA men's hockey tournament, three of them have players with ties to Western New York.
Two of those teams face each other during the opening game of the Frozen Four at 6 p.m. Thursday at United Center in Chicago. That's when Harvard and Minnesota-Duluth square off with the winner advancing to Saturday night's national championship game against the winner of the Notre Dame versus Denver contest. ESPN2 is televising both games Thursday.
The opening game pits Sabres prospect and West Seneca native Sean Malone of Harvard against Eden's Alex Iafallo. Each senior has had a hand in both teams reaching this point.
Malone ranks third in goals (18) and points (42) on the Crimson. Iafallo leads Duluth in goals (19), assists (30) and points (49) and shares the team lead in game-winning goals (five). He earned the assist on the game-winning goals during the Bulldogs' overtime wins over Ohio State and Boston University during their first two games in the tournament.
In Thursday's nightcap, Notre Dame features St. Joe's product Dennis Gilbert, a Chicago Blackhawks prospect with 22 assists for 22 points. Sabres prospect Cal Petersen carries a .929 save percentage and goals-against average of 2.13 into the contest for the Fighting Irish against a Denver program that lost in the semifinals last year to eventual national champion North Dakota.
Of the teams still alive in the Frozen Four, Notre Dame is the only one not to have won the national title at least once in its history.